Wisconsin WBB Season-in-Review

Over at Buckyville I posted my review of the women's basketball season and things to look for this offseason. For those following the women's basketball team here, please enjoy. Apologies if the formatting is a bit off, it's the editor here was a little difficult to use.

2021-2022 Season Review

Team as a Whole
Let’s start with the obvious: Wisconsin was very bad. The team finished 8-22, 5-13 in the Big Ten, and 0-1 in the Big Ten Tournament. The team ranked 254th out of 356 according to herhoopstats, which was the second worst in the Big Ten (Illinois was 273; Rutgers is ranked 133, which indicates something wrong with herhoopstats model). And they didn’t have anything they were much good at: herhoopstats ranked them 201th in terms of offense and 306th in defense. Breaking it down further, UW had fairly average offensive numbers (e.g. 150th in EFG%, 174th in in PPSA, 187th in PPP). Defensively, they were much worse: they were 322, 319, and 331 for those same stats.
For other stats, they were very slow, ranking 334th in possessions per game. Rebounding was awful: they were 330th in Total Rebounding Rate (i.e. what percentage of rebounds they would get). On the bright side, they were 60th in assist rate (% of FGs that had assists). They were mediocre/bad on TOs (218th on Turnover Rate).

Player Analysis
By far the best player was Hilliard, who had to step away to focus on herself. Depending on your preferred metric, it was either Pospisilova or Nelson next, and Ellew and Douglass after that (the metrics don’t much care for Schramek, in a bit of a surprise). Ellew had some really nice games, but before Hilliard left there were some games where she barely got off the bench. Pospisilova was actually way better at cutting down turnovers, but she’s just not a good enough shooter (31% on 3s). Schramek and Douglass showed some improvement, although it’s hard to tell if that was genuine or just because they were getting more playing time. Stapleton started most games at the beginning, but after the middle of the season her playing time was really cut down. Looking at the numbers, she had two many turnovers. I really want to like Stauffacher, she’s got great energy, but the numbers on her aren’t great either (e.g. 31.4% FG). Best case is that she’s a glue player, but it’s hard to be a glue player on a bad team. Duckett played some at the beginning, but was relegated to garbage time by the middle of the season. Leuzinger is a walk-on and a good story.
Last, Nelson is leaving after a solid year at UW. It took a while for her to get going, but in Big Ten play she turned it on. As I said elsewhere, you could make a case she was the best player sans Hilliard. She said she will be returning as a student assistant, so she will still be there to help.

Coaching Analysis
I don't have enough information to break it down by coach, so I'll just be talking about Moseley. She still sounds very confident, especially during the Big Ten season where the improvement started to show, but I have to wonder if she really knew what she got herself into. Despite some signs of success, the team was still really bad and had a really weird year. She lost more in one season at UW than in 9 years as an assistant at UConn. There have been some positive signs (PSU/Purdue wins, recruiting) and some negative signs (players leaving, many many losses). It’s difficult to really properly judge the coaching staff on this season with the injuries and COVID cancellations. At Bucky’s Fifth Quarter, Drew Hamm compared it to a "year zero", which I think is pretty apt.

Lingering Questions
Some unanswered questions from this season:

  • What happened with Leuhring and Djurstrom? Djurstrom may have left to play professionally in Sweden, but you’d think UW would announce that if it was amicable. She didn’t appear to be a strong player, and I’d rather have her scholarship back. Maybe they told her that, and so she left. But with Leuhring, she only had one more year, she was playing decently well, and she was saying lots of positive things about Moseley. Reading between the lines, it seems clear Moseley dismissed her from the team. Maybe there was something going on we don’t know about.
  • What happened with Stapleton and Ellew’s playing time? Especially Ellew, who might be the best scorer on the team (Hilliard might be as well, and Hilliard is a better rebounder/assister). She got a lot of minutes back when Hilliard took her leave. Benching Stapleton for Schramek and Douglass makes some sense: Schramek and Douglass are a year younger and getting them reps is good. Still, you couldn’t find 15-20 minutes for Stapleton, especially when she’s the only post on the team?
  • What happened with that Chicago State game? Seriously, what was that? Chicago State did end up with 4 wins, but still. The NJIT game looked bad at the time, but NJIT was actually not awful (herhoopstats lists them as better than UW).

Best Win
It’s hard to choose between the Purdue games, but I’ll say the first one with the massive comeback. Not only was Purdue the best team UW beat, but that comeback was unprecedented.

Worst Loss
Chicago State, pretty clearly. There was the 39 point loss to Michigan and 33 point loss to Nebraska are contenders.

Reasons for Optimism

  • Improved win totals: At one point, especially after the Chicago State loss, it seemed a real possibility UW would go winless in the Big Ten. Scraping together 5 wins is pretty impressive! And in several of those wins they came back from substantial deficits, something which never seemed to happen with Tsipis.
  • Improved play: I think it’s pretty clear the team was better at the end of the season than in the beginning, especially when accounting for Hilliard’s absence. Again, improved play was not something we saw under Tsipis.
  • Recruiting: according to ASGR, the most comprehensive WBB recruiting site, Wisconsin has the 41st overall class and the 8th in the Big Ten (the individual rankings are: No. 94, 5'9/PG Lily Krahn; No. 139, 6'5/C Tessa Towers; No. 147, 6'2/G Savannah White; No. 184, 6'4/PF Serah Williams). That’s a good class to sign before the Moseley era even began. I’ll probably be proven wrong, but I think Towers might be underrated: it looks like she got in much better condition between junior and senior season. You could add Wilke and Vanderpool, neither of whom played at all this year, to that class and it looks that much stronger. Is that an NCAA Tourney capable class? Not sure, but it will inject some much needed talent and depth.
Reasons for Pessimism
  • See the lingering questions. Is there a problem with the culture with all those women leaving? We don’t have anything other than rumors, and no one that left was a real gamechanger, but having two players leave mid-season isn’t a great look (this is assuming Hilliard left for entirely different reasons; again I have no info at all either way).
  • One of Tsipis’ issues was he tended to play certain players into the ground. I’m not saying, for example, Duckett could’ve come in and won some games, but I’m not sure if playing Nelson 39 minutes a game was always such a great idea.
  • That Chicago State game though…
  • Lots of pummeling in Big Ten play. Losses of 39 to Michigan, 33 to Nebraska, 34 to Iowa.
Things to Watch For This Summer
  • Recruiting. This is the biggest thing I’m going to monitor. UW only has one recruit beyond 2022, Tessa Grady out of Ohio. This isn’t uncommon to not have many commits, so it’s not exactly a concern. It’s hard to tell what the scholarship situation is: Hiliard, Pospisilova, Stapleton, and Stauffacher will all be seniors, but they could theoretically get an extra COVID year. Let’s assume UW will have 4 scholarships for 2023, one of which goes to Grady. That means UW should get at least two commits this summer. We can get a sense of how the staff recruits based on who they land. They’ve offered some high end talent, but will they get it? Of course, if they don’t land any, that’s not going to be a good sign.
  • Transfers. Welcome to the annual transfer-palooza! Trying to keep up with who might come is pure speculation, so I won’t try. But it’s possible, even likely, someone transfers out and someone transfers in. The only players I’d be really surprised if they left are Stauffacher, Schramek, and Douglass. For the rest, the players I hope don’t transfer are Hilliard (to be honest, it’s more that she’d decide to leave the team to deal with her issues; to be totally clear, if she needs to, she absolutely should), Ellew (always need scorers), and Stapleton (the team lacks post depth, and while Stapleton hasn’t proven to be a strong player, personally I’m doubtful there’s anyone out there who would want to come to a rebuilding program for a year that’s better than Stapleton).
  • Lineup speculation: this isn’t really a summer-thing, but I really have very little expectations of what the lineup will be next year. I don’t think anyone is "safe" in terms of starting. Will one (or both) of Wilke and Krahn start next year? Will one (or both) of Vanderpool or Towers start? Maybe even a Fab Five-esque Wilke/Krahn/White/Vanderpool/Towers? Probably not, but it’s fun to pretend.

The ultimate question: is Moseley the right person to lead this program? Obviously the wins against Illinois, Penn State, and Purdue were big, especially the unprecedented comeback. She clearly got the team to buy in. You would think that will bode well for a team getting more talent next year. As I said in previous comments, you can make a decent argument for Moseley being COTY, something you couldn’t say about the UW coach for the previous 10 years. But Lisa Stone won COTY and was fired the next year. So should we be confident Moseley is the woman to turn UW into a winning program (or even a middling program)? I think Jim Polzin put it well in an Open Jim column from earlier this season (quote may not be exact): "Do I believe Marisa Moseley can rebuild this women’s basketball program? Yes. Am I sure of it? No." This is a good balance. She clearly needs time to turn this into even a halfway respectable program, and there is some confidence to be found, but it’s not obvious yet that she will succeed. So I’m confident, but not highly confident.

Random Complaints

  • What happened to the Monday press conferences? Moseley went over a month without one. To be fair, several UW programs didn’t have them, I’m not sure if it was COVID or what. Still, some opportunity to hear from the head coach would be nice. Speaking of which…
  • Moseley and the staff sometimes skipped the postgame chats with the Wisconsin Badgers Sports Network. As someone pointed out, that’s probably put in the contract. Not sure why they wouldn’t do those interviews. Although that brings me to my next complaint…
  • Wisconsin Badgers Sports Network, why do you cut the rebroadcasts short? A lot of time they cut out the pregame/halftime interview/postgame. I try to listen to those to get a sense of the team. What, are they low on server space somewhere?
  • I’m not sure who handles the Twitter for BadgerWBB, but they don’t do a great job. Other teams have posts all the time about the team (e.g. Marquette WBB does a pretty solid job), while UW goes days without updates. You can’t put anything up there? This is super small potatoes, but I want to air this grievance.
  • Wisconsin State Journal, can’t you get someone to cover WBB? This was the first year they didn’t send someone to report on at least some home games. The occasional Jim Polzin story is great, something more dedicated and regular would be good. Seriously, WSJ, if you do any actual reporting on UW WBB, I’ll buy a digital subscription.
  • Also, I’d like the staff to get a Kelly Sheffield-esque "BINGO!!!" going when they land a recruit. Some sort of fun tradition would be nice.

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